HRT’S trou­bled cru­sade col­lapsed at the end of 2012 when For­mula 1’s V6 turbo hy­brid reg­u­la­tions were con­firmed, mak­ing it the last true shoe­string ef­fort


As For­mula 1 con­tin­ues its re­lent­less progress into pi­o­neer­ing tech­nol­ogy, it’s re­fresh­ing when a real throw­back en­ters the fray. The lit­tle HRT team that ran aground in 2012 was most def­i­nitely one of them; stag­ing a full F1 sea­son on a €46mil­lion bud­get, F1’s first Span­ish team was a mod­ern homage to the mass of tiny out­fits bat­tling for a space on the grid in the late 1980s and early ’90s. After three years of toil with lit­tle re­ward, it met a sim­i­lar fate to the likes of Simtek, Pa­cific and Forti when its owner Th­e­san Cap­i­tal was un­able to sell the team. Trig­gered by the col­lapse of Lola’s F1 dream in 1997, the FIA had tight­ened up the en­try re­quire­ments to join F1, re­quir­ing any en­tries seek­ing to join at the turn of the new mil­len­nium to pay a bond of $48m, later re­paid in in­stal­ments, to demon­strate fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity. This vir­tu­ally priced all ex­cept man­u­fac­turer teams out of the mar­ket and, in the im­me­di­ate years after, only Toy­ota emerged from scratch, as the large start-up costs put off even the largest mar­ques from lodg­ing new en­tries, in­stead elect­ing to take over ex­ist­ing out­fits. In 2008 and ’09, the global fi­nan­cial melt­down and en­su­ing ex­o­dus of man­u­fac­turer teams gave F1 and the FIA the job of re­plen­ish­ing its dwin­dling grid, amid the un­ful­filled prom­ise of a cost cap. Of the four teams ad­mit­ted, Lo­tus Rac­ing and the Manor-run Vir­gin Rac­ing squads made it, US F1 was a still­born project, while Cam­pos Rac­ing’s en­try went through a dif­fi­cult birth and ul­ti­mately ended up with adop­tive par­ents. From the very be­gin­ning, the team toiled with fi­nan­cial pres­sures. Hav­ing bud­geted for the cost cap, owner Adrian Cam­pos’s dream looked dead in the wa­ter, but a last­minute re­prieve by Jose Ra­mon Cara­bante’s His­pania Group pro­vided the im­pe­tus to make the grid for the Bahrain 2010 sea­son-opener – just, in the case of Karun Chandhok’s hastily as­sem­bled ma­chine – with ex-mid­land chief Colin Kolles drafted in to run the day-to-day op­er­a­tions. Although its Dal­lara-built chas­sis were un­der­de­vel­oped and lack­ing pace, the team man­aged to avoid the wooden spoon at the end of its first two sea­sons, beat­ing the Manor-vir­gin out­fit to 11th in the

con­struc­tors’ stand­ings in both years. Mid­way through 2011, Cara­bante sold up to Madrid-based in­vest­ment com­pany Th­e­san, which came in with the goal to drive HRT up the or­der while demon­strat­ing a clear Span­ish iden­tity. Re­ly­ing on Kolles’s per­son­nel to go rac­ing, Th­e­san gave the Ro­ma­nian his march­ing orders and went on a re­cruit­ment drive to bring more el­e­ments in-house. Ex-mi­nardi driver Luis Perez-sala took up the reins as team prin­ci­pal, while the team moved its head­quar­ters from Mur­cia to a new fa­cil­ity in Madrid. On the driv­ing front, Narain Karthikeyan was re-signed for a se­cond year hav­ing been benched mid-sea­son to al­low Red Bull to blood Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, while the ex­pe­ri­enced Pe­dro de la Rosa was signed to lead the team, bring­ing a wealth of knowl­edge from test­ing du­ties with Mclaren and Pirelli to de­velop the car and boost the team’s com­mer­cial pres­ence. “I learned a lot from the man­age­ment side and how com­plex an F1 team could be,” re­calls de la Rosa, who now works as a sport­ing and tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sor to DS Techee­tah in For­mula E. “I was not just fo­cus­ing on rac­ing, be­cause there were many other things I had to help with; I had to try to look for spon­sor­ship, and there was also the fact that we moved the team to Madrid, which I also had to help with. “I re­mem­ber the first time peo­ple asked me why I was go­ing to HRT, and there were two rea­sons. The first was to con­tinue rac­ing, and the se­cond was that it was a Span­ish For­mula 1 team. That was unique, [and if] I didn’t help es­tab­lish it then it might not hap­pen again. I knew ex­actly where I was go­ing and the dif­fi­cul­ties we would be fac­ing. I knew that it was go­ing to be hell, but it was hell with a group of very com­mit­ted peo­ple.” The F112 was hardly a sig­nif­i­cant de­par­ture from its pre­de­ces­sors, although some time had been spent in the ve­hi­cle dy­nam­ics lab to un­der­stand the F111’s chronic lack of grip. None­the­less, it was late in ar­riv­ing – HRT at­tended pre-sea­son test­ing with the old car, as the new de­sign failed the roll-hoop and lat­eral nose crash tests needed to run. It was an­other dif­fi­cult birth for the team, and the long-awaited F112 fi­nally made its on-track de­but in a Barcelona shake­down. Dressed in a white, bur­gundy and gold

“I knew it was go­ing to be hell, but it was hell with a group of very com­mit­ted peo­ple”

De la Rosa shows FIA pres­i­dent Jean Todt around HRT’S Madrid HQ

Nei­ther Karthikeyan nor de la Rosa qual­i­fied in Oz

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